Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/01/01/tabletop-review-rage-across-the-world-werewolf-the-apocalypse-20th-anniversary-edition/
Rage Across the World is not a travelogue as you might expect from the name. Instead it’s meant to be a companion piece to W20 in the same vein as the Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition Companion was. Well maybe not the same EXACT vein as the V20 Companion was pretty reviled and cost Onyx Path a lot of goodwill with its fans (that it has since won back and then some.), while Rage Across the World is actually pretty good. It’s mostly a fluff piece with a few mechanics interspersed here and there, but it’s better written, better laid out and far more useful than the V20 Companion. Part of that is because OPP has learned from its mistakes (poor V:TM – always the testing ground) and partly because Rage Across the World was a free stretch goal to Kickstarter contributors while you had to pay money for the V20 Companion You’d be surprised how far free goes towards placating people. Would V20 Companion have fared better if it had been free? Almost certainly…
Rage Across the World is short and less focused that the original six “Rage” books from earlier incarnations of Werewolf: The Apocalypse. The book touches on each of the classic locations: Egypt, the Amazon, Appalachia, New York Australia and Russia, but only briefly. If you want to get a more in-depth look at these locations, you’ll need to pick them up on Ebay or in digital form from DriveThruRPG, either in single volumes or in the three Rage Across the World volumes (Each contains two of the single locations in one big book). Although the original six Rage locations are only touched on briefly in this new Rage Across the World, they are updated for modern times. Those three pages on Cairo, for example talk about the Arab Spring and all the political upheavals that have been occurring in Egypt since 2011. Remember the original Rage Across Egypt is almost thirteen years old and as such is missing concepts like smart phones, 9/11, hybrid cars, drones, and other faces of life we regularly see today that simply didn’t exist back then. So if you own the original Rage Across XYZ books, the updates in Rage Across the World might be worth admission price alone. If you don’t own any of the originals, it’s not a problem – they’re not required and are more curiosity pieces at this point.
The introduction gives us a quick overlook about what the book is about, as well as a way to fast forward your characters in power and rank so that you’re not always starting off with Rank 1 characters. Similar to the Age background trait from V:TM, the increased rank gives you a lot of experience to spend on your starting character. Being a Fostern gives you between 45-75 experience to spend while an Elder gives you AT LEAST 600. Cripes. Imagine how over the top that would be if these were Freebie Points rather than XP!
Chapter One, “Life Among the Warriors” is told completely “in-character” until the very tail end of things. A young recently changed Garou wants to leave the cairn, finding the Garou Nation’s way of life to alien and stifling. He sits on the dock talking to a Silver Fang named Sarah, born and bred into Garou life, but ostracized because of her sexuality (Which amongst the Garou actually had a modicum of rationale behind it besides the usual straight up homophobia or religious based prejudice) . As such, she is the perfect candidate to explain to this young cub what are the benefits and drawbacks to Garou society. You get a solid look at the differences between sept, pack and tribe, along with the sometimes convoluted (by human standards) systems of laws and litanies the Garou live by. It’s an interesting read, and very much a quality primer for people new to W:TA, but it’s not a “must read” by any means, as it’s all information long time Werewolf fans (the vast majority of the target audience for this piece) are already well aware of.
Once we are past the in-game fiction, we are given a dozen pages of mechanics. These are not new rules that involve dice rolling or the like, but are instead all character creation based. Pack Status is a combined group trait where you can spend points on temporary things ranging from a tent to crash in on sept grounds all the way up to borrowing four or five dot fetish for a fortnight. This is a nice way for a Pack to make an adventure slightly easier for them and also cash in on their previous exploits. Sept Positions are specific roles a Garou can earn. Once obtained these roles become a part of who they are in the larger scheme of things and in return for taking the task on, they gain some mechanics bonuses. Take Keeper of the Land, which is a two point Sept Standing. This garou ensures the sept is kept clean, environmentally sound and occasionally dealing with local spirits. In return for taking on this role, the PC gets a +4 to its social die pool when dealing with the Sept’s totem and any other spirits affiliated with the location. Not a huge bonus, but a +4 bonus can come in pretty handy at times. Other than that, the chapter gives you one new rite and eleven potential caern totems.
Chapter Two, “Weaver” is all about the Garou’s take on well…the Weaver obviously. Told via in-game fiction by a Stargazer Galliard, you get a look at how the Weaver is affected the modern World and how the Garou have to deal with it. Locations covered in this section include Pittsburgh, Shanghai, Cairo (which is why this isn’t by a Silent Strider), Seattle and London. It’s an interesting read and it really showcases how dangerous the Weaver can be, as well as why some Garou consider it to be the true enemy rather than the Wyrm. Again, it’s a fun chapter to read, but it’s not something that is going to wow any long time W:TA fan or change how they look at the Weaver. It’s all common sense stuff regurgitated in a fun piece of fiction. Mechanics wise, you get five new fetishes and five new totems.
Chapter Three, “The Wyld,” isn’t about Gaia, but what the Garou nation needs to do to win the war against the Wyrm, as well as how to keep Kinfolk and wolves alike safe and healthy. Some of the suggestions make a lot of sense (more Lupus Garou need to be born as they can have more babies than a human and become Garou five times faster than a Homid born cub) while others are a bit harsh or dark to our conventional human morality (Breed, breed, breed as there is a war going on. Which explains the disdain Sarah gets from other Garou in Chapter One for being homosexual. Homosexual couplings can’t produce children and thus she is far less likely to make little garou babies so that the war against the Wyrm can be won. Hey, at least it’s better than “Bing Gay is evil for no vague undefined reasons based on an interpretation of a religious textbook that may or may not be in line with the point of view possessed by the deity in question!”) We’re also treated to a look at various wolf populations across the world and the threats they face. Locations include Minnesota, Ethiopia, Yellowstone National Park, the Australian Outback, the Iberian Peninsula and Central Asia (Specifically five ex Soviet Union nations). Besides the in-game fiction we get the concept of spontaneous Metis (created by radiation exposure), a new gift, a new rite, a new fetish, two new talens, and a quick write-up of caerns in the aforementioned locations. Again a fun read, but nothing that makes Rage Across the Worlda must-own by any stretch of the imagination.
The Appendix, "Gaia" is perhaps the most interesting piece of the book and it also presents things from a different viewpoint than most players and/or in-game characters have. The fact the first section is entitled, "Why We've Lost" is probably pretty unexpected and jarring but it drives home the core concept of the W:TA (The end of days and the final battle are nigh) and it's a reminder that Gaia is much more than trees and rocks or water and air. Gaia is life and creation. Locations include New Guinea, The Arctic Circle and the one two punch of Tanzania and Kenya. The latter gives us a hint of things to come in the upcoming W20 release: Changing Breeds, which is a look at the other shapeshifter races across the world. We’re give a nice look at the fall of Black Tooth (a despotic werelion) in this book, something that will be touched on in far greater depth in Changing Breeds. Mechanics-wise you get some new rites, gifts and totems and then…the book just ends abruptly. That’s it. No conclusion or short piece to wrap things up. Just an odd for the eventual Wraith 20th Anniversary Edition promised for 2014 (Ha ha ha…now that’s a pipe dream) even though we’re still waiting on Mage.
Overall, Rage Across the World is a fun read, but by no means a must have. As a Kickstarter backer freebie, this was an excellent way to spend those stretch goal funds and there is little to complain about here. If you did miss out on the W20 Kickstarter, only time will tell if this is worth purchasing. It’s all going to come down to the MSRP Onyx Path saddles this book with. As there is very little content other than the in-game fiction pieces and all the mechanics pieces are optional and minor at best, only extremely devoted W20 people should pick this up and even then, that core demographic have almost assuredly gotten this as a freebie because they backed the Kickstarter campaign.